In a wonderful act of appreciation and solidarity, Toronto Zoo reached out to Scarborough Health Network (SHN) asking if they would like to have 53 Blanding’s turtles named after members of their staff who have gone above and beyond in the fight against COVID-19. SHN posed the question to their employees and were inundated with nomination messages written by individuals and groups, detailing why their team member or leader is so especially deserving. They were beautiful, funny, heartfelt and a pleasure to read.

After a difficult selection process, a list was put together and the turtles were ceremoniously given the names they would take on into their new lives of independence. The SHN recipients of this prestigious distinction thank the Toronto Zoo for this special and lasting way of acknowledging their efforts in keeping our community safe.

About the noble Blanding’s turtle and the release program

The Blanding’s turtle is a long-lived species with a life span of up to 80 years. This species has inhabited the Rouge Valley for thousands of years, though prior to 2014, its future was uncertain. Habitat loss had pushed this species to the brink, with as few as seven adult Blanding’s turtles remaining at that time.

However, in June 2014, a group of partners, co-led by Parks Canada and the Toronto Zoo, began reintroducing juvenile Blanding’s turtles in the Rouge. To date, they have released 397 head-start and hatchling Blanding’s turtles.

On a warm Tuesday morning on June 23, the turtles named for SHN team members were taken to a marsh in the Rouge and set free to live their lives. Learn more.